I was going to say something hopeful.
I know many people who are deeply upset by the results of our presidential election, and I want to to help them.
I was going to say that America has survived thoroughly corrupt and deeply incompetent presidents before. Even our best presidents have made costly mistakes while in office.
I was going to say that our citizens have rallied together to defend one another from bullies, and will continue to do so. In the past few decades, we have seen a dramatic shift in national attitudes towards equality for women, non-whites and gays.
I was going to say that things always feel darkest in that moment, that time heals many wounds and that things probably won’t be so bad when the dust settles.
I was going to say that even if every conceivable, worst-case scenario comes to pass, then we get to start over again in four more years (or sooner, when congressional seats come up for a vote.)
And those things may be true.
I was also going to say that it’s wrong to infer that everyone who voted for Donald Trump is a closet racist or that they genuinely endorse his many serious flaws. In much the same way that many of my friends voted for Hillary Clinton as the “lesser of two evils”, I know that other friends voted for Donald Trump simply because they believed that he was the better candidate to represent their vision of America. They voted for him in spite of his inflammatory words and actions, not because of them. Their reasons may not make sense to you or I, but they don’t have to; it’s enough to know that reasonable people can and do see things differently.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”. Unfortunately, he was wrong. Unless you’re in a court of law, there is no final arbiter on what constitutes the truth. You can argue your case persuasively and you may even be indisputably, objectively correct, but you cannot actually make another person accept and admit to any fact if they are determined not to.
I wrote the other day that we suffer when we insist upon identifying people as “us” or “them”, and I believe that now. I’m not telling you to see your fellow human beings without labels for my benefit; I’m asking you because I know that it will help you to heal and to enjoy deeper relationships and belonging, even if those you choose to love don’t always choose to love you in return.
But I also realize that in some sense, saying all of these things is kinda pointless.
I think I understand why so many people are grieving the result of this election. As others have so incisively stated, for many tens of millions of people who voted against Donald Trump, this election wasn’t primarily about economic policy or national security or abortion or even healthcare. Politicians and their constituents have argued about these things for years; this isn’t new.
No, those grieving this election today are mourning a loss of decency.
I won’t re-hash Trump’s countless acts of aggression towards virtually anyone who doesn’t look or think like he does. It’s enough to remember that his campaign was, from day one, cruel and divisive; to lengths that no other presidential campaign has ever approached.
When our country elects an unrepentant bully who has openly and repeatedly mocked women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and even decorated war veterans;
When our country elects a man who has bragged of assaulting women;
It feels as if tens of millions of our fellow citizens are validating his toxic views.
And it is for this reason, and not sour grapes or a “man who speaks his mind”, that so many people are in mourning today.
As a white, straight man, I can count on one hand the number of times that I have been treated badly in my lifetime, simply for being who I am. I was fortunate to be born to committed parents in a stable home and I’ve always lived at least a middle-class lifestyle. This is the definition of privilege; a series of lucky breaks, bestowed by the universe. I don’t apologize for it, but I also want to possess a deep empathy for those who have lived different lives than I have, and to do everything I can to help others along the way.
So it’s not so much for myself, but on behalf of my Muslim friends, my black friends, my Mexican friends and my gay friends, that I write this post today. For those who have always felt a sense of vulnerability — of not belonging — and may feel even more acutely vulnerable today, I want you to know that I — and millions of other people — will continue to stand with you.
If you’re still in shock, then I encourage you to grieve. Take whatever time you need to process things; connect with family and friends. Heck, try meditation. When you’re ready, I also encourage you to return to hope and get back to work.
If your guy won, then I encourage you to remain accountable to your choice; holding Donald Trump accountable for his behavior and the results of his presidency.
But no matter what, I encourage you to start by giving someone a hug.
We could probably all use one right now.